Retell to check meaning

We are used to asking our students to predict what might come next in a story (based on what has happened so far).
For example:
Teacher-What do you think will happen on the next page?
StudentI think Bingo is going to eat the card too.
As the student turns the page she looks at the picture to confirm her prediction, and she easily reads words such as ‘card’ because she expects to see it.

A few students benefit from being asked to retell what already happened at the end of every 1 or 2 pages. The teacher might choose to do this to check that the student is understanding what is read. (Before waiting until the end of the book.)

Some students can read all of the words correctly but they cannot answer questions because they can’t follow the story, or they might partly understand what was read but not enough to tell someone else about it. Other students might need extra opportunities to improve how they speak, (i.e.oral language).

“Mother Chimp will be hungry”, he said. “I will take some fruit down to her.” Little Chimp got some fruit. He climbed down the tree with it.

Teacher– Tell me what just happened. (This is asking the student to recall what was just read, and to choose words / sentences to pass on the information in a way that makes sense.)
Student ALittle Chimp is eating the fruit. (Student A based this incorrect information on the picture of the chimp with the fruit in it’s mouth, not the information in the print.) Little Chimp did eat some fruit but this was earlier in the book.
Teacher– Little Chimp does have the fruit in his mouth. Go back to here (beginning of page) to read why he is going to give it to Mother Chimp. (The teacher is providing more meaning, and is directing the student to the exact location to find some specific information.)
Student AShe’s hungry.
Teacher– Why do you think Little Chimp carried the fruit in his mouth?
Student A– ‘Cos he’s climbing down and hanging on to the branches.
Teacher– Why do you think Mother Chimp didn’t get some fruit herself?
Student AShe had to look after the baby chimp.

After the meaning was re-established, the teacher invited the student to turn the page. Student A was asked to describe what was happening in the next picture before she attempted to read it.


Another example:
Teacher– Tell me what just happened.
Student BMother Chimp get none….food.
Teacher– You’re right. Mother Chimp didn’t get any fruit herself. Who gave her some? (The teacher is confirming the information, modelling sentence structure, and encouraging him to add more detail.)
Student BLittle Chimp.
Teacher– Tell me how Little Chimp got the fruit. (pointing)
Student BLittle Chimp climbed the tree.
Teacher– That’s right. Little Chimp climbed up the tree and then he….. (accompanying gestures)
Student B– …climbed down the tree.
Teacher–  And he carried the fruit in …..
Student B– …in his mouth.

The teacher has to be sensitive to how much intervention / questioning is helpful , or disruptive to maintaining meaning (and interest) for individual students. Gradually the student becomes more independent and can gather up and maintain meaning whilst reading.

The power of reading

As I write this post, many of us are settling in to watch the ‘fairytale wedding’ in Windsor.

A distant relative once gave me a book of fairytales when I was old enough to read it by myself. I don’t know if she read the book before she gave it to me because the stories frightened me to bits! These were not the airy fairy Disney versions that are on our bookshelves and screens now. These were the original gruesome versions. Thankfully I was not put off reading for life.

I love reading, and therefore I am quite surprised when I come across someone who doesn’t share my enjoyment of spending time with a good book. My mother passed on her passion for books when I was young. She would sometimes be in fits of laughter as she read stories to me. I didn’t always understand the humour, but nevertheless I enjoyed our shared ‘special time’ together. My father faithfully took his children to the library every few weeks and the stack of books that I borrowed grew bigger in tandem with the number of books that I could carry.

11 year old April Qu shares her passion for reading in the following Ted Talk video. She reminds us-  To read is to experience a world of imagination, adventure and discovery.

The Power of Reading | April Qu | TEDxYouth@Suzhou

TEDx Talks Published on 7 Mar 2016
The joy of shared reading experiences with your children may be remembered and treasured for many years to come. Happy reading…..

Emotional wellbeing

The presenter from Berry Street (recent Curriculum Day) reminded us that attending to the emotional side of learning is important to all learners, especially to those students who struggle in some way.

You may have watched the SBS Insight program (How do you turn a school around?) during this past week. It highlighted the positive practices introduced to a disadvantaged Sydney high school that greatly affected the students’ learning and self-confidence.

Research has proven that what children learn (or not) is heavily influenced by emotions. How we are feeling at a particular time affects how our brain receives and understands new information.

Emotions overrule your ability to think. For example, if you have had a bad experience when navigating to somewhere you have never been before, it will probably affect your attitude when driving to another location. One wrong turn could cause a downward spiral of panic that may stop you from thinking rationally. (Been there, done that!)

What teachers, parents and caregivers do and say impacts childrens’ learning and belief in themselves. One of the most damaging things parents and teachers can do is to react impatiently or harshly when children make mistakes. (We all make mistakes and hopefully we learn from them. If we don’t take risks, we limit our opportunities.)

Children who struggle to learn tend to be the most sensitive, and react negatively or positively to parents’ and teachers’ nonverbal cues e.g. a frown or banging the book on the table (negative response) compared to a smile or a ‘high five’ (positive response). An adult may be saying ‘nice things’ but can still be conveying displeasure through expressions and gestures.

A child’s ability to think and problem-solve is heavily dependent on positive experiences with others. A caring and supportive environment (including the teacher / carer) is essential for the development of the complex thinking processes required to read and write. Positive emotions lead to ‘stronger memory’ and lead to ‘easier to learn’.

Students motivate themselves to try new things when they feel good about themselves. In Reading Recovery we are always looking for strengths that can be nurtured. We help / intervene to keep the experiences positive when the student is problem-solving. We create opportunities for the child to become successful.

Teachers who benefit students the most build trust with them, show a genuine interest, listen carefully, give purposeful feedback, provide support, and set high expectations. By doing this we tend to the emotional wellbeing of our students so that they are ready to learn.

Much of the information for this post is taken from a Reading Recovery professional development day I attended years ago lead by Carol Lyons. She is the author of an excellent book called Teaching Struggling Readers: How to Use Brain-Based Research to Maximize Learning (2003)


I have been browsing (not wasting time!) and came across some great articles related to Self Monitoring, Comprehension, and Reciprocity.

I have added the links to the For Teachers page.


Looking for some fresh (or forgotten) ideas to use at home? Here are a couple of updated sites:

Ways to Help at Home from

Some suggestions for reading, and the cut up sentence, as well as word games.


Reading and Writing With Your Child from the Reading Recovery Council of North America

More ideas and links to games and articles.


Further tips can be found on the Useful Links page. (It can be frustrating when you find links that do not work any more. It would take way too long to keep checking them all!)

During the Curriculum Day on Friday we had our 1st session in the Berry Street Education Model series. There was an emphasis on the importance of students feeling safe and supported in a learning environment containing a predictable routine. Sounds exactly like Reading Recovery!

It is always uplifting to hear about some success stories. Also revisit Celebrating Reading for some feel-good viewing!